Two more families have sued South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., alleging the utility is responsible for flood damage to their homes they say was caused by water released from Lake Murray.
The lawsuits — by homeowners John Cantwell, and Robert and Kristi Sherr — bring to three the number of actions against the Cayce-based utility in connection with the Oct. 4 flash flood in the Coldstream neighborhood near Irmo.
SCE&G let water out of the rain-swollen 47,500-acre Lake Murray into the lower Saluda River for two days, saying it was necessary to protect the lake’s earthen dam. That dam was built 85 years ago to create the man-made reservoir, originally constructed to produce hydropower.
Eric Boomhower, a spokesman for the utility, responded by saying SCE&G officials “worked to the best of our ability ... to minimize the impact of lake and river levels on area residents” during the recent flooding.
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Like the previous lawsuit, the new ones say SCE&G knew flooding downstream was likely and didn’t give homeowners enough warning.
The suits, filed in Lexington County Circuit Court, also allege the utility failed to release enough water from the lake before the record rainfall that occurred. Lake levels were 3.5 feet below the maximum allowed before the rain and falling, geology records show.
The homes of Cantwell and the Sherrs are in a low-lying part of the hilly Coldstream neighborhood. They were among 400 Lexington County residences that flooded. More than half were near the river.
Water releases from Lake Murray started Oct. 1. A warning that significant amounts of additional water could follow downstream was issued the next day as rain started, SCE&G has said. On Oct. 4, the utility announced the lake’s floodgates would open slightly more than two hours before the move.
It was the first time the dam’s gates had been opened because of rain since 1969. As much as an estimated 375,000 gallons a minute were released as four of the dam’s six gates were opened, partially or fully, SCE&G has said.
“SCE&G is responsible for these losses,” said Jake Moore of West Columbia, lawyer for the three families. “I welcome the chance to sit down with them and find an alternate way to deal with these cases.”
Not everyone in Coldstream says the flooding was caused by the releases from Lake Murray.
One engineer, who lives in the neighborhood, says the flooding was caused by rain backing up at a rail embankment for trains carrying coal to the power plant that SCE&G operates, below the lake’s dam, instead of releases from the lake.
Tim Flach: 803-771-8483